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Wheres Lucy?

• Lucie Arnaz puts the how-not-to-do-it lessons from her famous parents to good use

Everybody loved Lucy Ñ and her husband, Desi Ñ but their daughter often got the short end of the stick.

Lucie Arnaz, daughter of famed comedian Lucille Ball and bandleader Desi Arnaz, and an accomplished performer in her own right, is determined that her own children won't share her legacy: that of a child of absentee parents.

Arnaz will share stories from her youth and her own hard-earned parenting lessons in a talk, 'Surviving Success: Her Story,' as part of the Voices Contemporary Lectures Series.

With a rapid-fire delivery that conveys her passion on the subject of family, Arnaz, 50, spoke to the Tribune from the New York home she shares with her husband, actor Laurence Luckinbill. Together they have three children, ages 17 to 21, while he has two sons from a previous relationship.

Arnaz says that although she and her younger brother, Desi Jr., had perks that other kids envied (e.g., no waiting in line at Disneyland), she often wished her parents were 'normal' and craved the time that they devoted to their careers.

'I know my parents loved me with all their heart, but unfortunately, due to the nature of their work Ñ which they allowed to overtake their lives Ñ I didn't get the time I needed from them,' Arnaz says. 'That takes its toll on your ability to love yourself, and it certainly takes its toll on your ability to love your own children.'

Despite these emotional wounds, Arnaz says she made her own share of mistakes after becoming a parent. She's candid about the wake-up calls (including her sons' drug use) that forced her to make some painful decisions about her own career in show business.

'You can have it all,' she says, 'but do you really want to have it all? I really don't think you can compete 'Olympic-style' in your profession and be there for your children and partner.'

Arnaz admits to being 'at the brink' a number of times because of her children's issues.

'Suddenly, all your kids are having problems, and you're talking with school psychologists about behavior,' she says. 'You have to take a look, and say, 'What am I doing?' Some of what you're doing is what you swore you'd never do.

'We realized that we were letting other people raise our kids, and they needed much more of us Ñ even though I was giving them twice as much as I ever got! It made a huge difference in our lives when we paid attention to that and gave them more time.'

In keeping with their newfound priorities, Arnaz says that she and Luckinbill now accept only jobs that are short-term and particularly lucrative. She and her family recently returned from London, where she starred in the stage production of 'The Witches of Eastwick.'

As a result of her trials and errors, Arnaz is unapologetic about claiming expertise in the area of child-rearing.

'The point of my speech is that I lived with that kind of success Ñ and can you think of two people who were more successful than my parents? But it didn't make them any happier in the end,' Arnaz says. 'And because I know that, I don't have the same desire to want to get there. My parents didn't know that. They kept thinking: 'Bigger, bigger, better, best. Then we can relax. A little more money, a little more fame, then we'll be able to settle down.'

'But it doesn't work that way. And because I know that is why I'm one of the few people that can actually give this talk.'

Arnaz thinks that even with the best domestic help that money can buy, there's no substitute for a parent's presence:

'We had great help Ñ so did my parents Ñ but it's not the same. And as a parent, you look back and ask: 'Who gave them all their baths that year, or tucked them in at night, or asked them how their day was?' It wasn't fair to them, or to me.'

Contact Jill Spitznass at

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